Sermon July 10, 2016 Psalm 23 “Every Picture Tells a Story”

Psalm 23                                                                                                                 July 10, 2016

Sermon Series: “Short and Sweet Summer Psalms”

Today’s Sermon: Psalm 23 – “Every Picture Tells a Story”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki   Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

There are three wonderfully uplifting images in this short psalm, and each image proclaims a truth about our gracious Lord. With apologies to Rod Stewart, we could say that “every picture tells a story”, that is; each imagery reveals a wondrous truth about our great God and Savior.

 

The First Picture: The Lord is my Shepherd (vv. 1-3)

If it was natural for a community of farmers and shepherds to think of the Lord as their shepherd, how much more for David, the shepherd boy, to picture God this way.

Notice that the metaphor is unmistakably personal. It’s not “the Lord is our shepherd” or “the Lord is your shepherd”, but rather, it is “the Lord is MY shepherd.”

Now we know that sheep are among the most defenseless and helpless of all creatures; in fact, they are stupid! They are a combination of infants and incompetents who can’t do anything for themselves!  So of course the Shepherd has to lead them to food and water; He needs to protect them from harming themselves and from predators, and he must seek after them, when they get lost!  (Lk. 15- the lost sheep).

And you and I are like those pitiful and weak sheep. How much I need the Lord to be my own shepherd! How much each of you needs Jesus Christ to be your own shepherd!  Perhaps in our sharing the gospel with others and in preaching the gospel to ourselves, we ought to ask, “Have you come to the point where you see yourself as a helpless and wayward sheep? Are you convinced by all your sins, troubles, and hardships, that you desperately need Jesus Christ as your personal Shepherd?”

The Good News of Jesus is that God the Father has sent His Son to be our Good Shepherd, to meet all of our needs, to renew and restore our weary souls, and to lead us in the tracks of His righteousness! Amen!

You see, His shepherding care of you and me guarantees that we shall lack nothing of necessity, because He will never fail us. His grace will always be sufficient for whatever situation we are in. Do you believe that for your present circumstances?

And how do we know this is true? Because in Christ, He has already put his life on the line for us. I was reading an account of shepherds in Africa who would willingly lose a leg, an arm, or even their life, in order to protect their flocks from predators such as lions and leopards. Isn’t that what our Shepherd, Jesus, did for us at the cross, in laying down his life for us?
Notice in this picture (v. 3) that the shepherd also “Restores my soul.” What does that mean? Well it can mean that [1] He brings me back when I stray; it can mean that [2] He renews me spiritually when I am dry, or both. We ought to pray in faith, “Shepherd of my soul, renew me! Lord, revive me! Jesus, restore me!”
Finally, we see that me Shepherd guides me / leads me in the paths of righteousness (“along tracks of righteousness”) – i.e., that match his righteous nature and that lead to his righteous goals – for me) for his name’s sake.   Derek Kidner comments that the phrase “For His name’s sake” is our security and confidence. For it means that the Shepherd’s leadership does not arise from anything in us, or anything which we have done; rather His loving shepherdly care arises only from what is in His heart and His nature.” It comes from Who He is!

That’s the first picture that tells a story: The Lord is my Shepherd. So let me ask you: “Are you trusting in God as your shepherd? Do you feel safe inbeing personally pastored by the great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ? This is a very personal imagery. Describing God as King, Deliverer, Rock, etc., can be distant or impersonal, but a shepherd lives with his flock, and he is everything to that flock; their guide, provider, and protector

The Second Picture: The Lord is my Friend (v. 4)

4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Notice how the pronouns change here from the third person “he and his” in vv. 1-3 to the second person “you and your” in v. 4. Do you see that?

What this means is that however dark your pathway appears, you will be comforted by knowing that your Shepherd-Leader, Jesus Christ, is also your side-by-side companion and intimate friendship. It is perhaps too trivial an image, but here we see the Lord as a BFF – your Best Friend FOREVER! This second picture tells the story that your shepherd is no longer ahead of you; He is now alongside you as your companion – {Think of the Incarnation of Christ, and Holy Spirit’s presence with us.} How reassuring it is to know that your Shepherd is beside you. especially through the darkest times of your life. He will never leave you or fail you. Therefore when you face adversities and threats, you can say with confidence: “I will not fear any evil.”

    Note in v. 4 that one of the right paths He leads us on is through a valley of death!  It’s nice to know that He is with us as we wander through green pastures, but it’s critical to have this sovereign and gracious friends with us when we go through the hardest and loneliest times in our life. And only this Shepherd can lead us through death, because He alone been there, and conquered death!

Then at the end of v. 4, we see that His rod and staff express a comprehensive protection from every danger. They comfort me. And therefore His presence overcomes my worst enemy – which is the fear. (Think of what you are afraid of.)

Therefore my security lies not in my environment or my circumstances- whether green pastures or the darkest valley – but in the Friend who is always with me. In His presence there is neither want (v.1) nor fear (v. 4).

That’s the second picture that tells a story: The Lord is my intimate Friend, protecting and caring

The Third Picture: The Lord is my Host (vv. 5-6)

This third picture is perhaps the most intimate one, as David moves from being the Lord as Shepherd and Friend to being my Host. As my gracious Host, He receives me into His home, His eternal heaven, to be with Him and to enjoy Him forever! To be God’s guest is not a one day experience; it is to live with Him forever.  For all of eternity the Lord makes sure that every day of mine is catered for by His own goodness and committed love! He will be my host, and I will be His guest, forever and ever, with him. [Think of the booklet, “My Heart, Christ’s Home.”]

Derek Kidner comments on the transition from v. 4 to vv. 5-6: “It is one thing to survive a threat (in the valley of death); it is quite another to turn it into triumph! (v. 5). Every detail here is in that key, from the well-set table to the festive oil and the brimming cup.

The picture may be one of cool assurance under pressure, an OT equivalent of Romans 8:31-39 or 2 Cor. 12:9. It is a witness to God’s infinite resources in the worst of our situations.” Perhaps it anticipates a victory celebration, where the enemies are present as captives (Eph. 4:7; Ps. 68).

“But the prospect is better than a feast. In the OT world, to eat and drink at someone’s table created a bond of mutual loyalty, and could be the culminating token of a covenant. (See Exodus 24:8-12 and 1 Cor. 11:25 “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”)

Derek Kidner comments that if these verses recall the days of David’s flight from Absalom, then the choice of the verb “to pursue” or “to follow” is very telling. Whatever danger pursues there is always a greater pursuit going on, namely the Lord’s goodness and committed love.”

Therefore, in conclusion, we are reminded of Jesus Christ as our great shepherd, who applied the metaphor of the LORD to Himself! (What a claim to divinity!) He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14). He is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He is that great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20)

If I know him as MY shepherd, that I have the assurance that He will provide for my needs. He satisfies my hunger, he quenches my thirst.

Out of loyalty to his own character, he will guide me in paths of righteousness, and will not allow me to go astray.